Tag Archives: Antarctica

The colonization of Antarctica

On the “very active” (ironically) blog Free Antarctic Republic [this site is functionally dead!] I  attempted to post the following comment a few weeks ago:

A few points in favour of colonising Antarctica:

1. Anarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, so windpower might be a suitable power supply for a (small) colony.
2. An Antarctic colony can be fund though crowdfunding and can consist of at least a few dozen inhabitants.
3. 3D printers can produce guns, so Antarctic citizens can easily arm themselves and form a citizen’s militia to protect their republic.
4. Marie Byrdland is a large piece of unclaimed land, seizing it for a free republic would not conflict with other territorial claims.

FAR has only one post (posted on April 14, 2013) and one page, and no approved comments. Another “very active” blog dedicated to establishment of an Antarctic colony is Colonize Antarctica. It’s last post is from January 27, 2008! More than five years ago.

It seems that proposals to colonize Antarctica is a recurrent theme, although there is not much enthusiasm for it. Plans for establishing colonies on the southern continent are dating back to at least the 1950s. Until now no serious attempt has been made to create a permanent settlement there. Only 70 scientific outposts have been established, but they do not have any permanent population and they are nearly all scientists.

Although man can survive on Antarctica, no major nation has ever pursued to create a permanent settlement on Antarctica, whilst many countries has pursued colonial empires through the ages. The main reason why Antarctica has not yet been colonized, is the challenges placed by the geographical conditions over there. Not only the low temperature by itself is a challenge, but this is the cause of a lot of other challenges. A large part of the continent is covered by ice (approximately 2% of all fresh water on Earth lies on Antarctica) and soil is frozen, which hinders digging and so constructing in general.

The climate of Antarctica does not allow for “traditional” agricultural, and the frozen underground also prevent mining activities. Therefore there is a substantial lack of economic incentives to colonize Antarctica, which implies low interest from potential investors. However, FAR argues that tourism is a prime motivation for establishing an Antarctic colony. Unlike space tourism, this idea makes some sense. First of all, a trip to Antarctica takes a few days to a few weeks while a trip to Mars will take at least two years. Further a trip to Antarctica is much cheaper, a few thousands of dollar instead of 200,000 USD for a flight with Virgin Galactic (and then you get only up to 100 km above the Earth for a few minutes), this means there would be a much larger market for Antarctic tourism than for space tourism.

Tourism as the backbone of the economy of an Antarctic colony will also lead to the emerging of other activities. Comparative advantages will prevent the export of agricultural products, but technologies such as grow light might enable local production of food. By choosing the right frequencies we can optimizing the efficiency of the cultivation of crops. Of course this leads us to the question how Antarctic settlements are provided with power. Due to the location of the continent solar power is almost of the table, and nuclear power is too expensive. As pointed out by “Colonize Antarctica” Antarctica is the windiest continent on Earth, therefore wind power is the logical choice. In particular they advocate the use of Horizontal Axis Turbines. Although this kind of wind turbine is less efficient than Vertical Axis Turbines, they are easier to construct.

There is one reason why Antarctica might be an interesting place for a settlement. Because the continent has virtually no population, makes it an ideal place for launching rockets. Though it’s possible to launch rockets from sea, such maritime launch platforms are small which limits the seize of your rockets. Further such platforms are less stable. The vastness of Antarctica will eliminate all these issues.

One of the methods that can be used to settle Antarctica is by creating domed cities, this article describes how such structure could look like. In these structures people would live in an isolated and heated environment.

See also:

Several arguments against seasteading

Solar Islands and Seasteading

Fascinating Future (stories about colonizing Antarctica)